At this time of year we are inundated with Christmas movies. Some of these cannot be watched enough. Some of them, one time is enough. Some channels begin this barrage in July, which is utterly ridiculous. Thinking of the movies of my lifetime and the ones that came before me, I made a list of the greatest Christmas characters with whom we are all familiar and have become a part of our Christmas. These characters are developed by incredibly talented actors and deliver some piece of the Christmas spirit we all enjoy. Keep in mind that this is a list of great characters, not how good the actors are who portrayed them.
10. Howard McVie (Four Christmases)
The cranky, humbug father who sits with his beer and cheers his adult sons as they fight in his living room. Robert Duval develops an incredible character that only such a great actor could deliver. “Boys, I don’t want to speak ill of your mother on Christmas, but she’s nothing but a common street whore.”
9. George Bailey (It’s a Wonderful Life)
“What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey. That’s a pretty good idea. I’ll give you the moon, Mary.” Jimmy Stewart could not have portrayed a better George. The love of life and the blessings of family are reinforced in a profound way.
8. Kevin McCallister (Home Alone)
Almost a tie with Marv, the bumbling and dopey criminal in the movie, Kevin a sweet kid who learns a beautiful lesson about Christmas wishes. “Ma’am, I’m eight years old. You think I would be here alone? I don’t think so.”
7. Bob Wallace and Phil Davis (White Christmas)
Phil: “My dear partner, when what’s left of you gets around to what’s left to be gotten, what’s left to be gotten won’t be worth getting, whatever it is you’ve got left.” Bob: “When I figure out what that means I’ll come up with a crushing reply.” One of the best sing-and-dance partners in film, ever, the warmth of the characters are drawing to the point where you think you have known them all of your life. A message of Christmas that it is not about you, but about others.
6. Dudley (The Bishop’s Wife)
I guess it cannot be any better than having a Christmas movie with a protagonist who is an angel. The angel that only an actor like Carey Grant can deliver is an unforgettable character. Dudley’s message in this beautiful movie carries on throughout the decades. “Few people know the secret of making a heaven here on earth. You are one of those rare people.”
5. Ralph Parker (A Christmas Story)
We have all been at that age at Christmas when obsession of a certain toy takes over our whole thought process. Ralpie only wants a bb gun . . . even if it could put his out. “Now, I had heard that word at least ten times a day from my old man. He worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay. It was his true medium; a master. But, I chickened out and said the first name that came to mind.”
4. Miles Finch (Elf)
Nope, not Buddy. The character of Peter Dinklage steals the show, if only for a small area. The industrial, make money business man demonstrates the blinded scrooge who only thinks of himself and how great he is. “Hey, jackweed, I get more action in a week than you’ve had in your entire life. I’ve got houses in L.A., Paris and Vail. In each one, a 70 inch plasma screen. So I suggest you wipe that stupid smile off your face before I come over there and SMACK it off! You feeling strong, my friend? Call me elf one more time.”
3. The Peanuts Gang (A Charlie Brown Christmas)
Charles Shultz is a wonderful man in general, if you ever get a chance to read about his life. The children who never grew up in the Peanuts series are recognized generation after generation. The story of this movie has been swept away by commercialization, but never has been completely destroyed. “. . . for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
2. Esther Smith (Meet Me in St. Louis)
Yes, it is the first time we were ever introduced to “Have Yourself a Merry Christmas.” Judy Garland’s character is the personification of Christmas. Although the whole movie is not directed to encompass all of Christmas, it is one of the most beloved of all time. “No, no, Tootie, you’re wrong. New York is a wonderful town. Everybody dreams about going there, but we’re luckier than lots of families because we’re really going. Wait till you see the nice new home we’re going to have, and the loads and loads of new friends we’re going to make. But the main thing is, Tootie, that we’re all going to be together, just like we’ve always been. That’s what really counts. We could be happy anywhere as long as we’re together.”
- Cousin Eddie Johnson (Christmas Vacation)
How? You ask. This is a list of characters. No, Randy Quaid is not a better actor than some of the previously listed actors, but his character of Cousin Eddie is hard to top. Yes, it mostly contributed to the writers who developed him, but Randy Quaid leaves a unforgettable character that continues to steal the show Vacation movie after Vacation movie, and that is difficult to do with the cast of funny people he is around. Cousin Eddie just wants to be part of the family Christmas . . . without imposing. “Don’t go puttin’ none of that stuff on my sled, Clark. You know that metal plate in my head? I had to have it replaced, cause every time Catherine revved up the microwave I’d piss my pants and forget who I was for a half hour or so. So over at the VA they had to replace it with plastic. It ain’t as strong, so I don’t know if I should go sailin’ down no hill with nothing between the ground and my brains but a piece of government plastic.”
What are some more you like? What makes that character stand out to you? Christmas is a happy time for some and a very lonely time for others. We watch these movies, no matter where we are, and they can bring a smile to our face. The characters in these movies can almost feel like a member of our own family or remind us of a member of our family. My wish is that all of you have a very Merry Christmas.